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Climate Change

It is well past time that governments at all levels across the globe took meaningful action to address climate change.  I applaud the Town for declaring a Climate Emergency in the previous term.  It is time to act meaningfully towards that declaration.  I’ll start off by saying that we are all guilty of contributing to Global Warming.  Each and everyone of us.   We, individually and collectively, need to do our part.  The fires of this summer were a stark reminder of the challenges we will face in the coming years.  The floods of 2013 are still being mitigated almost a decade later with much work still to do.

I am a believer in Natural Capacity.  Our lands and our planet can only handle so much.  We can engineer better solutions but that too has limits.

Over the past couple of years we all have noticed just how busy our valley is.  From the roads to the trail heads.  The number of people visiting has markedly increased.  We need to manage that demand as best we can.

We need to use less.  Plain and simple.  We need to adjust our habits and this will be uncomfortable.  We cannot just continue growing and consuming.  

I look forward to tackling this issue head on however imperfectly.

Affordable Living

Many folks talk about Affordable Housing. This is a national issue and not just unique to Canmore however it is exacerbated here. The cost of housing here is on par with Vancouver and Toronto.

But we would be remiss to not talk about the full equation: Housing, Cost of Goods and Income.

Housing: Canmore, in reality, has lots of housing but unfortunately much of it is vacant much of the year and underutilized. We’ve all seen streets with zero activity. Neighbourhoods with little vibrancy. Houses that never have the lights on.

Meanwhile, demand for housing is skyrocketing for both ownership and rental markets. Locals are being squeezed out of the town they love. How many of your friends and family have moved away to greener pastures? This ripple effect is killing the vitality of our community.

The Town has, at this time, limited tools to address these problems but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can, including lobbying the provincial and federal governments for the fundamental change that we need to save our town (and many towns like us)

I am a strong supporter of a Vacancy tax. If you can afford to have a second (third…etc) home sit vacant for the majority of the year without substantially contributing to the local vibrancy and economy the least we should expect is a significant tax. A tax that at the end of the day discourages this type of hoarding.

Conversely, if you do rent out your home on a long term basis I think there should be a rebate for that commitment. If you run the numbers (and I have many times) being a landlord isn’t financially attractive on a month to month basis in Canmore. Even though many rail against the cost of rentals the cost of ownership is significantly more usually. Let’s help out if we can by lowering the carrying costs for landlords and help make it more attractive to rent out your property.

Cost of Goods: Did you know that about 4200 locals are on the Canmore Affordability Program? In a town of roughly 14500 about 30% of people are living below the poverty line. Many businesses are offering discounts to those that qualify but many are unaware of this program. A local’s discount for those that need it should be more widely accessible and encouraged.

Living Wages: Did you know that a living wage in Canmore is $30/hour up from $22 in the previous study? If you are not making $60,000 per year in Canmore you are falling farther behind every year. So many of our vital community workers are not anywhere near that wage. Not even close. We need to encourage businesses to make that investment in their people. I am a business owner and I understand the difficulties in this endeavour. But what are our alternatives? Retraining staff every three months? Not being able to hire anyone at all? Closing our doors more frequently? We can’t keep exploiting workers with the excuse of “but you get to live in the mountains”. That phrase shouldn’t hold water any more. It is insulting at best.

Canmore is an in demand destination. Let’s start pricing our products and labour accordingly. Anything less is selling ourselves and our community short. Anything less erodes our community fabric. We can and must do better.

Truth & Reconciliation

I was born in a Reserve Town in Northern BC.  I am a very privileged, middle aged, white guy.  I recognize that.  I also would never claim to understand the plight of the people we have savagely oppressed since our arrival.

If there was one issue that was highlighted for me during the TSMV debate it was the lack of consultation with our indigenous neighbours.  Quite frankly, it was embarrassing.  We need to do more to involve our Native Community in the everyday conversations that are taking place.  Full stop.

I don’t have many answers to Truth and Reconciliation but I will listen.  I will do my best to tear down the systems that I have benefited from and that have oppressed others.  It is time.

I know that the Town also recognizes this shortfall and is working towards repairing these relationships.  I look forward to participating in those conversations.

Democracy

If there is one gripe I hear all too often (even if it isn’t the full and complete truth) is that the community doesn’t have access to Council, Town Administration or the Plans for the Future of this town.  Case in point: Do you remember any public consultation on the new Intersection?  I am not saying it didn’t happen….in fact it did happen….but the general public wasn’t aware.  Communication at the Town over the years has gotten a lot better but it still needs work.

Another issue is timing of meetings and council meetings in particular.  They are scheduled at times that aren’t convenient for many.  I would suggest we stagger meeting times so that at least one meeting a month is held in the evening.  Technology, especially since Covid, has really opened up opportunities for everyday folks to participate and I am very enthusiastic about the opportunities here.  The more people engaged in the conversation the better.  Diverse, open, healthy communication benefits us all.

And my last point here.  Council wages discriminate against too many.  The base wage for a council member is $29,000 per year.  Remember that a living wage in Canmore  is $60,000.  At the end of the day you get the wealthy, the retired and eccentric running for council.  (You can put me in the last category 🙂 )  This job is demanding and we need diverse opinions and perspectives at the table.  Anyone in town should be able to run for council and not have to have 2 other jobs to support that decision.  Our Mayor is paid $90k+. Is the role of councillor that much less demanding?  Should you do this job for the money?  Absolutely not…but you have to be able to make a living.  Would you take on this role for $29k per year? We need solid people doing this very important job and a healthy wage would help support that and not one that discourages.  Did you know that Councillors are not entitled to Maternity Leave?  It’s 2021….for real.  Meanwhile, the Chief Administration Officer, a position that this council will rehire when the current CAO leaves in 2021, makes roughly $250k.

Democracy

I am a bit of an Economics Nerd.  It fascinates me.  The idea of what money is and how it works (or doesn’t work) could be a fulfilling lifetime study.

We have two major drivers of our local economy: Tourism and Development.  Both have pros and cons.  Tourism is the backbone of our community but it is labour intensive, ecologically straining and notoriously poor paying.  Development does create well paying jobs but if you look at the limited land we have left to build on you can see that it is not sustainable in the long run and must be balanced with our natural ecology.  We have opportunities in both of these sectors.

Covid has markedly changed the game in so many ways but most notably the fact that many people can work from anywhere.  Good paying jobs can be done from nothing more than a cell phone with a good data plan.  We have incredible opportunities here.  Let’s make the most of it. 

TSMV